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Recent Publications

“Diet Drink Dilemma”

Nov 22, 2020

Diet beverages are marketed as healthier, less harmful alternatives to their sugary soda counterparts. People drink diet sodas to help cut calories and to avoid the well-known downsides of too much real sugar. Soda is one of the most demonized junk foods in the United States, topping just about every list of things to avoid for a healthier life. But are these “healthier” alternatives really all they’re advertised to be? Sugary sodas are among the most aggressively marketed beverage products on the planet. Coke and Pepsi, for example, together spent about half a billion dollars to advertise their namesake products to US consumers in 2019. In 2020, the average American will drink about 149 liters of carbonated soft drinks—that’s nearly 40 gallons. Such high levels of consumption earned soda companies $133.7 billion, or an average of $404 from every US consumer in 2019. However, an excess of sugar-sweetened beverages can wreak havoc on health, and lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, gout, decreased bone health, and cavities, among other ill effects. Six sugar substitutes are included on the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list, and approved for use in food: aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k. The plant-derived sweetener stevia gets mixed reviews from the FDA. But are the artificially sweetened drinks safe?

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“Interesting Facts About Aging”

Nov 15, 2020

Overall, most of the myths surrounding age seem to center on inevitability. People believe that it is inevitable that they will gradually deteriorate into dust as their lives become increasingly unbearable, boring, passionless, and painful. But, admittedly, certain aspects of health do decline with age. Examples of aging-associated diseases are atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of all of these diseases increases exponentially with age. Physiological changes occur with aging in all organ systems. The cardiac output decreases, blood pressure increases, and arteriosclerosis develops. The lungs show impaired gas exchange, a decrease in vital capacity and slower expiratory flow rates. When you reach your sixties, your skin turns drier and itchier and may look like crepe paper or tissue. Wrinkles, age spots, creases, and bruises become more noticeable. Your sweat glands also get less active. That means you might not sweat as much, but wounds on your skin may take longer to heal. Also, certain things can cause us to age faster. Hormone changes, environmental factors, genetics, and your diet all play a role in how quickly we age. Cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death of older adults, although death rates have dropped in the last 20 years. At what age are we considered “old?” A typical woman in the United States is old at age 73, and a typical man at age 70.

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“Tylenol Issues Poisoning Warnings”

Nov 08, 2020

Each year, about 100 million Americans use Tylenol (acetaminophen) and it can be found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription products used by nearly one in four Americans every week, including Nyquil cold formula, Panadol, Excedrin pain tablets, and Sudafed sinus pills. This drug can be used very safely to treat minor aches, pains, and fevers in the short-term. However, over the past few decades, unintentional overdoses from acetaminophen have been on the rise in many nations. New research from Switzerland suggests a higher dose of acetaminophen makes it easier for people to accidentally poison themselves, and while this doesn’t often lead to death (we have an effective antidote), it can cause severe liver damage. In 2003, most over-the-counter (OTC) tablets in Switzerland contained roughly 500 milligrams of acetaminophen. But in 2003, the nation introduced a prescription-only tablet containing 1,000 mg of the drug, which quickly became popular and was associated with overdoses. Many people don’t realize that each pill of acetaminophen you swallow adds up in the body. This means taking just a few extra 1,000 milligram tablets can put you at risk of an overdose, easily exceeding the 4,000 recommended milligrams a day for adults.  For that very reason, in 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended limiting an adult dose to two tablets containing 325 mg of acetaminophen, with a boxed warning about how toxic byproducts form.

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“Prevagen’s Improved Memory Claims are Misleading”

Nov 01, 2020

In the absence of a simple answer to the complex problem of dementia and cognitive decline, unproven “brain boosters” like Prevagen continue to see widespread commercial success. So, we need an honest scientific interpretation of the evidence. Dementia refers to a loss of brain function that interferes with daily living and is beyond what can be attributed to normal aging. In 1906, German physician, Alois Alzheimer identified this debilitating dementia, which will claim one in 10 baby boomers. This results in annual costs of $148 billion. Women, African-Americans and Hispanics are at an increased risk, as are those with diabetes and heart disease. Fear of these dreaded diseases has created a $2 billion per year industry and the internet is abuzz with advertisements claiming to improve your brain function. Also known as “smart drugs” and “cognitive enhancers,” nootropics are any substances designed or purported to enhance cognition, including memory, attention, creativity, or overall intelligence.

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“Is Exercise More Important Than Diet ?”

Oct 18, 2020

Experts say that you can’t outrun your forks and the notion that moving more will translate to weight loss is a dangerous one. Do we need to unhitch exercise from our weight-management wagons? Also, is it how much we are eating or what we are eating? Over the years, studies have found that a high body mass index (BMI) is linked to higher rates of all-cause mortality. Obesity increases the risk of developing dozens of health problems. In the past four decades, obesity rates have doubled in more than 70 countries and steadily increased in almost every country across the world. In 2015, high BMI was found to be the cause of 4 million deaths globally, with more than two-thirds of those deaths due to cardiovascular disease. A recent study suggests that individuals who adhered to a Mediterranean diet, (which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, unrefined grains, and fermented dairy products) and were overweight—but not obese—had the lowest rates of all-cause mortality. These studies suggest that a diet like this can lead to health benefits like reduced blood pressure, lower inflammation and lipid levels, and improved metabolism. Of course, there are a number of factors at play here. The authors note that overweight people appear to be less likely to exercise. Also, it’s unclear whether exercise is any more important than several other risk-lowering factors, like attaining a higher level of education, according to the results. One of the studies cited found that exercise capacity “is a more powerful predictor of mortality among men than other established risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” including BMI. Another study, which analyzed the health of over 334,000 individuals, found that twice as many deaths could be attributed to a lack of physical activity than those attributed to obesity.

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“COVID-19 Distracts from Imminent Global Infectious-Disease Threat”

Oct 11, 2020

According to the CDC, nearly 3 million Americans per year contract an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. Of those, roughly 35,000 die. Globally, approximately 700,000 die from these infections every year. The World Health Organization projects that, at current rates, around 10 million people could die from antibiotic-resistant infections annually by 2050. As bacteria become more resistant to antibiotics, the risk of catastrophic consequences increases. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality. Because of the over prescription of antibiotics, the overuse of them in livestock, and other factors, many different kinds of bacterial infections including strains of gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and salmonella have become extremely hard, sometimes even impossible, to treat. That’s because the tiny portion of bacteria that survive these antibiotics evolve and reproduce, developing resistance. Around the world, 230,000 die each year from antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis alone. It’s increasingly likely that bacterial infections will be very difficult to treat if not untreatable. A May review found that among about 2,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients worldwide, 72% received antibiotics even though only 8% had documented bacterial or fungal infections. Experts say that the superbug crisis (“nightmare bacteria”) has been simmering along and needs to be discussed more often.

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“Vitamin D Reduces COVID-19 Risks”

Oct 04, 2020

We have been told that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a major pandemic and a leading cause of death worldwide. Currently, no drugs/vaccine is available for treatment. Future preventions and social distancing are the only ways to prevent this disease from community transmission. But Vitamin D is an important micronutrient and has been reported to improve immunity and protect against respiratory illness. A third wave of coronavirus (CoV) infections has swept the world and brought it to its knees. This new CoV infection (COVID-19) originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. The causative agent for this respiratory illness is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2). This epidemic has a high infection transmission rate and in general, the direct cause of death is severe atypical pneumonia. The disease spread rapidly from the initial epicenter, Wuhan, to rest of the world and has become a pandemic. The main risk factors include pneumonia, acute kidney failure, acute heart failure. The global COVID-19 outbreak has placed devastating impact on every community. People with underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and the elderly above 60 years are most susceptible to COVID-19.

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“Please Leave My Oysters Alone”

Sep 27, 2020

As a native Louisianian, I truly love oysters. Now, Cambridge scientists and profiteers are planning to “alter” or fortify shellfish, including oysters, to tackle human nutrient deficiencies which cause severe health problems across the world. The team is now working with major seafood manufacturers to further test their microencapsulation technology, or “Vitamin Bullets”. Here is their pitch: “Over two billion people worldwide are nutrient deficient, leading to a wide range of serious health problems. Fortifying food with micronutrients is already an industry standard for enhancing public health. Scientists have teamed up to supercharge one of the world’s most healthy and sustainable sources of animal protein: bivalve shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels.” They have produced the world’s first microcapsule (“Vitamin Bullets”) specially designed to deliver nutrients to bivalves which are beneficial to human health. When we eat bivalves, we consume the entire organism including its gut, meaning that we digest the nutrients which the animals consumed towards the end of their lives. The scientists tested Vitamin A and D fortified microcapsules on over 100 oysters to identify the optimal dose. The team found that fortified oysters delivered around 100 times more Vitamin A, and over 150 times more Vitamin D, than natural oysters.

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“Covid-19 Has Changed Medical Practices”

Sep 20, 2020

The effects of COVID-19 extend far beyond our physical wellbeing, are altering medicine overall and some of these changes will stay long after the crisis is over. The best hope anyone has to survive and thrive in a post-COVID world is to brace for “the new normal,” whatever that may be. And it may be a far cry from the old normal. There’s no telling how much—or little—this pandemic will affect hospitals, clinics, and physicians in the long term. But the evidence that some effects will become permanent is compelling. Physicians will operate in a healthcare system altered by financial ruin, technology, and other evolutions spurred by the pandemic. Here are four changes that experts believe will occur. 1) Clinics and Hospitals Close. The American Hospital Association estimates that COVID-19 has collectively cost US hospitals more than $50 billion per month since March. By mid-August, at least 18 US hospitals had closed this year.

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“Medical Practices Lack Solid Scientific Support”

Sep 13, 2020

In September of 2020, shocking headlines stated, “Only 1 in 10 medical treatments is backed by high-quality evidence.” Most believe that the treatments prescribed by their doctors are supported by high-quality scientific studies but that is far from being true. An analysis in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, concluded that only 9.9 percent of recommended treatments had high-quality evidence according to the gold-standard method for determining whether they provide high or low-quality evidence, called GRADE (grading of recommendations, assessment, development and evaluation). Using the same system, 37 percent had moderate, 31 percent had low, and 22 percent had very low-quality evidence. Lack of high-quality evidence, according to GRADE, means that future studies might overturn the results. Studies that are “blinded” – in which patients don’t know whether they are getting the actual treatment or a placebo – offer higher-quality evidence than “unblinded” studies. Blinding is important because people who know what treatment they are getting can experience greater placebo effects than those who do not know what treatment they are getting. Many poor-quality trials are being published. It is estimated that there are currently 25 thousand medical/scientific journals turning out over one million publications annually. It is also estimated that 50% of these papers have reached the wrong conclusions. The tsunami of trials published every year, combined with the need to publish in order to survive in academia, has led to a great deal of rubbish being published.

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